Nation-building

barbados map flagThe purpose of nation-building is to: “inculcate a feeling of belonging and with it, accountability and responsible behaviour.” (National Planning Commission, Republic of South Africa). At the time this statement was fashioned, Nelson Mandela held the reins of government. South Africa was returning from an abyss of deadly strife and everyone had apprehensions about the future.

While none would claim a perfect outcome, there is no denying that the declaration of intent made a positive impact on South Africa and the world. A key point of emphasis is Continue reading

The gift of gratitude

 gratitude 2As I write this article, Valentine’s Day is on the horizon. It signals a time to pause and reflect on the need to express love and think about those, who to us, deserve our love. It is an act of gratitude. Never mind the fact that it has become commercialized and there are some prescribed rituals, which if not displayed, can cause disappointment.

In Barbados, there is a pall cast upon this commemoration because of widespread concern about the effects of Continue reading

We can do it!

we can make itUnited States President, Barack Obama is well-known as an inspirational speaker and leader. His State of the Union message, delivered on January 28th, received global media coverage. The consensus is that this was another inspirational tour de force, not just for Americans but many others who have been undergoing hard times.

It doesn’t matter that there are differences about the policies, programmes and political agenda; at one point or another, your heart was stirred Continue reading

Where is this going?

where is this goingAs a child, I remember that I was frequently asked: “What do you want to be when you grow up”? I have asked that question to children and adults many times over the years. I suspect you would have had a similar experience. You would also have found that, over time, the answers that you gave to this question tended to change. Continue reading

A perception of risk

riskDue diligence and risk management are business terms that have come into popular use. Due diligence is to exercise a certain standard of care before concluding a deal. That exercise should include an examination of factors that could have an adverse effect on desired outcomes. Typically, an effort is made to minimize risk.

Everywhere in the world people are planning and seeking a path toward an ideal future. Continue reading

New Wine in Old Skins

“No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.” (Mark 2:22, Matthew 9:17)

vineyardThis parable speaks directly to the challenges being faced in our society as we seek ways to make necessary changes to improve our social, economic, and spiritual circumstances. There are those who make constant reference to “resistance to change” as a natural human condition that will predictably frustrate the best intentions. This results in a “why try” attitude that becomes an excuse for not making the effort or contribution that one could make,

Another familiar refrain is “we have heard all that before” and we are still talking years later about the same thing. This, as though poor implementation is a default position that cannot be overcome. What actually occurs is something akin to reading a headline and assuming you can accurately fill in the details from inferences made about previous experiences.

These and many other avoidance clichés, deprive legitimate change initiatives of the propulsion and resilience needed to achieve a positive, beneficial outcome. Since all of us have an ongoing desire to improve our circumstances, I thought it might be useful to look at this Biblical parable for insight and wisdom that can be applied today.

First, let’s say the “old wine” represents the combination of thoughts, ideas, values, rules and actions that led Barbados to achieving a global reputation for being a good place to invest. It is a recognized leader in political, economic and social stability; along with a highly literate workforce. One aspect of this stability is that you find many people who have long tenure in positions of influence and authority, who over time, keep things at a pace that is comfortable for them and those like them. So in many ways, the “old wineskins include many established traditions such as test cricket, working for the boss, and not delegating authority.

The “new wine” is comprised of those who have endured the system and seen where it fails to recognize and adjust to the new realities. In those instances where they find themselves being forced into “old wineskins”, they are leaking out the sides and voice their discontent among friends, the countries’ customers and others who agree that the old system needs radical change. They lack sufficient authority to create meaningful change. They have seen many examples of those who are too vocal or visible with new ideas being cut down or treated unfairly.

There is a saying that “the first rats to leave a sinking ship, are the good swimmers”. As a result, many who remain are loyal to those who have kept them there are unlikely to generate innovation. Circumstances such as these tight economic times, increased lawlessness and declining customer satisfaction, represent the new wineskins of today. The opportunities come from addressing the needs of the country with compelling actions whose benefits satisfy urgent needs.

This will call for vision, courage and persistence.  There is still much to be savoured from the old and an important place for the new. When Jesus turned water into wine, the first thing the wine steward said was: “it is customary to serve the best wine first”. It’s your turn.

God bless.

I have a dream

Why Martin Luther King, Jr. did NOT say “I have a plan.”

In the past week, I have been reflecting on the 50th anniversary of the historic civil rights march on Washington DC; the one where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made his historic “I Have a Dream” speech. I won’t claim to have been present though I was at the time, in Boston, labouring in the community development trenches. I was more inspired by the speech than the march itself. I took pieces of it with me every day and used it to start conversations and to encourage others to believe in what it described.

During the week, I encountered an article (posted on my Facebook page and LinkedIn company page) written by Daniel Burrus, entitled “Why Martin Luther King, Jr. did NOT say “I have a plan.Continue reading

What is the Real Score?

Election campaigns are now in full swing with lots of “noise at the barricades”. As I try to sort through manifestos, promises and boasts, I am left with the question: What’s the real score”? In the midst of all this party tribalism and the litanies of historic grievances; it’s like trying to watch a sporting event that has no scoreboard.

MM900395774The politically intense will reply with references to “voter swing”, at risk constituencies and a tally of political gaffes by their opponents. We mustn’t forget the economic statistics and claims of what has been done, should have been done and why it wasn’t possible. It seems like an athlete that’s involved in a competition but more preoccupied with making personal points or playing to the crowd. That is a sure formula for defeat.

From where I sit, both major parties seem to have gaining power as their objective and are using fragmented “solutions” without the context of a confirmed diagnosis. For example, education is an area that is sure to evoke deep emotional reactions. After all, we are renowned for our high literacy rate and it is a cornerstone of national development. However, the circumstances that existed when Errol Barrow made education universally available have changed drastically and we are struggling to put “lipstick on a pig” that needs major restructuring. Is it possible that the countless dispirited people unable to support themselves and increasing lawless behaviour are like the umpire’s finger going up in a cricket match?

Our vaunted social partnership seems to only emerge in episodes of crisis and make a calming return to the status quo of contentious industrial relations with government as a referee. Heck, university graduates with advanced degrees feel as aggrieved as the average wage-earner. Too often, they insist that they are entitled to pay far more than the actual value of the work they produce and employers are then saddled with labour costs that strangle their businesses.

MM900236244These are just two examples that are eating at the core of Barbados’ development as a nation. The ponderous inefficiency of government services and questions around ethical and respectful behaviour warrant mention as well. Alas, I have word limit so I will take this up further in other articles.

There should be no gloating by either party because both are culpable. Barbados’ political stability rests on the fact that regardless of who is in power, things remain essentially the same. It seems that this “stability” is an over-played strengthen and we are in danger of becoming a one-trick pony.

I am very aware that these are politically sensitive areas. They are the veritable “sacred cows” of Barbados society. It is said that: “Sacred cows make the best hamburger”. No disrespect intended to Hindus.

There has been much talk during this campaign about leadership. I submit that effective leaders must answer two questions constantly: What are we working on? (Vision) and How are we doing? (Performance). We live in a democracy but democratic management is a failed concept.

Our leaders may want to consider a modified version of a “balanced scorecard” that covers and aligns the breadth of key functional areas. They can then report against measurable targets at agreed milestones. Maybe then, we will be able to follow and participate in the game.

God bless.

Prepared for the February 18, 2013 “Strong Suit” column in the Barbados Business Authority.

Dennis Strong can be reached at supremeservices@caribsurf.com